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Futoshi Miyagi, The Cocktail Party

Daniel Reich Gallery
537 West 23rd Street, 212-924-4949
April 10 - May 16, 2009
Reception: Friday, April 10, 6 - 8 PM
Web Site

Daniel Reich Gallery is excited to announce an exhibition of new works by Futoshi Miyagi, The Cocktail Party. Titled after a story by Oshiro Tatsuhiro, Miyagi’s installation is loosely based on Tatsuhiro’s story about the rape of an Okinawan girl by American soldier stationed at a military base where her father attends a cocktail party, a mark of his post-war upwardly mobile social status. The story, in which Chinese characters also appear, is a complex rendering of national identity. Miyagi was intrigued by the story’s use of female characters or more broadly the feminine to denote powerlessness and abjection and parallel chosen states of masochism and abasement in relation to race and to the homosexual.

The Cocktail Party allows Miyagi to free associate and to access his own memory of Okinawa and as his work is marked by a deliberately fanciful innocent quality, his use of traditional Japanese craft such as Bingata fabric and Origami paper have allowed him (showing in a Western context) to use the Asian stereotype of neatly crafted childlike things for quiet subterfuge. As cultural trauma (such as the destruction and American military occupation of Okinawa) is interwoven with personal experience: Miyagi’s own memories (told through clues in the form of objects) have the immediacy of a child’s pleasures mediated by pain, pederasty and sadomasochism. The delineation of a story like The Cocktail Party with a sensitive touch allows for a perverse irony. For instance, in the back gallery, the clothing of the offending soldier augmented by a beautiful Genet-like floral pattern is strewn on a chair and positioned across from a box of candies, a juxtaposition that parallels the artist’s own fantasy of an encounter with an AWOL American soldier who offers him a stick of Doublemint gum (a brand only available from American Military bases in Okinawa becoming distinctly Okinawan in this context).

In this respect, objects and items that seem American become distinctly Okinawan. The visitor to the gallery will first encounter a fence made of yarn, through which one escapes into an imagined Okinawa through a hole into leaving the confines of the American Military base to visit Heiwa street – a street offering traditional fare such as the Sanshin instruments, Bingata fabric and American fare. Twentieth century history could be characterized by clandestine meetings across literal and metaphorical fences. and perhaps failed fences proving the impossibility of racial segregation against human curiosity and the excitement of cultural difference: commingling is natural in spite of (and possibly excited by) social inequity. One might think of Liliana Cavini’s film The Night Porter in which a Jewish woman is attracted to her Nazi tormenter. Miyagi’s vision of The Cocktail Party fuses and confuses roles, notions and pleasures. For instance, the Ryukyu glass, a post-war icon of Okinawan design, was initially crafted from recycled Coca-Cola and 7-Up bottles after World War II, while the name Ryukyu refers to pre-Japanese Okinawa and its southwest chain of islands extending to Taiwan. Miyagi’s fictional AWOL gives his Japanese watch to Miyagi and ironically yet sensibly, the absent American becomes his Japanese watch. And the AWOL’s proposition to Miyagi sweetened by a stick of Doublemint gum presupposed a fantasy of submission amplified by racial difference. Additionally, the American AWOL by way of Doublemint is synonymous with the artist’s father whose appreciation of Doublemint gum is such that his presence in Miyagi’s installation is reduced to a Doublemint package. Japanese imaginings of Okinawa and the island’s rural mythology, encouraged by its American occupiers, are such the predominant cultures that Miyagi’s yarn barbed wire also recalls the motif of traditional fishing nets. Miyagi’s The Cocktail Party is about the floating, diffuse and painful yet still experiential nature of identity so that in the face of reticence, one becomes a brief description.
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